One day a few weeks ago, a flight from the Middle East arrived in Houston. An ambulance met the plane on the tarmac and whisked a trauma patient to the emergency room of Memorial Hermann Hospital in the city’s famed Texas Medical Center. After a neurological evaluation, the patient was wheeled into the operating room, where surgery took place that same day. As of this writing, the patient is in The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, a part of the Memorial Hermann system, participating in post-operative rehabilitation.
For decades, patients have come from around the world for specialized treatment at the Texas Medical Center. Each day, the Center welcomes international patients who arrive for initial diagnosis, treatment for a disease or disorder, a valued second opinion or an annual checkup. More than 14,600 international patients came to the Center in 2008, and that number is on track to increase nearly 20 percent in 2009.
Most are drawn by the state-of-the-art medical technology for which the United States and the Center, in particular, are known. Many come for the pioneering treatments not available anywhere else. Others come because the wait for care in their home country is too long. While, some come simply because they can afford the best of the best and they know they can find it here.
While the Texas Medical Center may be a location of choice for advanced medical treatment, creating a successful inbound medical tourism program takes more than world-class technology. For Memorial Hermann, a three-year, dedicated effort is showing results in both increased numbers of inbound patients and high levels of patient satisfaction. Along the way, we have identified five essentials for success.
The number one key to our success is a totally patient-centered concierge approach. When I came on board in 2006, I came from an international banking background. We have brought the same atmosphere of professionalism and service found in VIP banking to the way we care for our international patients and families.
Our International Services team assists patients from pre-arrival to post-discharge. Before a patient even arrives in the United States, our team has smoothed the pre-registration process by accessing medical records for the patient, assisting with financial clearance, helping coordinate travel arrangements and setting initial appointments. While most patients do not require an ambulance at the airport, our personal liaisons coordinate their arrival through the airport system’s personal representatives, helping them navigate immigration and customs, get to their hotel and arrange transportation for the duration of their stay.